Welcome to the official blog for Raleigh India 12I | July - August 2012

Welcome to the Official Blog for Raleigh India 12J September - December 2012.

Monday 25 February 2008

Message from PRO

I'm off for another 'loop' visit to our trekkers today until Saturday 1st March. We'll be taking them more supplies and gathering more news and updates for you all to read on our return.

Please check the blog again on Sunday 2nd March and keep posting your messages; they will all be posted on my return and sent out to the project groups with the next Fieldbase trip to see them.

Bye for now!

Sunday 24 February 2008

We're Back (with news from the Alpha groups)

Vehicles Bravo One and Bravo Three have now returned to Fieldbase, full of all the news from our three Alpha groups. All groups are working really hard and are progressing fantastically. Each group is also bonding really well and some true friendships are being formed.

Read on for the reports on each Project Site from our Fieldbase teams who went out to spend a few days with them.

Alpha One - Hosekerasunda Community Project

First stop for Bravo One was to the Community Project in the village of Hosekerasunda. Our photographer, Brian, spent four days with the team there:

This is Alpha One, or as they like to call themselves, ‘Team Compost’. During this phase the group hope to complete 10 toilets and they are well on the way to achieving this. Without going into too much detail the finished units consists of two chambers, one of which is in use (as a toilet) whilst the other is converting the waste matter into very useful high grade compost for their farming. It is reportedly a very efficient decomposing machine.

Oliva, aka "The English Mason"

The participants start the day with radio comms, have a breakfast of porridge and are ready to start work at 8.30 am. Alas, the masons are not always so keen to start at the same time. There is a ‘day leader’ who allots people to specific tasks and the day usually gets underway by 9.00 am. Usually the alpha group breaks down into four smaller groups to work on each of the units. As the day warms up, lunch at 1.00 pm cannot come quick enough and the locals cook an excellent curry.

The participants work through the afternoon as well and it is very very hot and oppressive. All the work is labour intensive, aggregate, sand and cement is all transported by hard toil. Yet the group are well focused, and they know that at the moment they have to keep going to get all ten completed by the end of phase. Every aspect of the construction, including mixing concrete, cutting steel rods, and bricklaying is done by the participants with the local community helping.

When time allows, the group take delight in social interaction with the local community. Josephine and Georgia were robed in exquisite saris, and others taught the ‘hokey cokey’ to the young school children. I was invited in to ‘take tea’ with a family. Sometimes, just going for a bus ride to the local town is an exciting, invigorating and educational experience.

At the end of the afternoon, just before dinner, most participants go for a well deserved swim in the local reservoir. Bobbing around in warm water amidst wonderful scenery, when the sun is low in the sky gives a relaxing yet spiritual uplifting to the end of a day.

Alpha Two - Nagarhole National Park Environmental Project

Next stop for Bravo One was to Mettikuppe Inspection Bungalow in Nagarhole National Park. When we arrived in the late afternoon, the team were relaxing in the shade after a physically demanding day on one of the elephant-proof trenches. Some members of Alpha Two were busy painting the gazebo in the garden, another project that the group will be working on in Phase One. The designs are looking really good and the task is bringing out everybody's creative side.

We were given a tour and then treated to some face-painting and games as evening set in. After dinner, the guitar came out and everyone joined in with classics such as 'Bohemian Rhapsody', 'Tears from Heaven' and 'Breakfast at Tiffany's', although it seemed we only knew up to the first chorus of every song, so Fieldbase have offered to send out some song lyrics on the next 'loop' trip.

After an early night, the group were woken at 5:45am and on the worksite by 7:45. The work is physically tough, but everyone works amazingly well as a team and has so much enthusiam that time seems to pass quite quickly. Each task is rotated among the group, either loosening the soil, digging and shoveling into buckets or passing the buckets up above the trench where the soil is then levelled out to make a barrier for elephants if they come close to the edge. This soil is secured in place behind a fence, constructed out of long branches.

Alpha Two at work in the trench

The finished product

The afternoon was then spent showering and washing clothes as well as catching up with other chores at the bungalow and continuing work on the gazebo. A day off for the whole group was planned for the next day and Alpha Two were also looking forward to a safari in the park with the rangers, which was being organised for the following week.

Thomasin and James collecting water

Laurie, Bella and Maud teaching games in a break from work at the work site

Alpha Three - Chattamunnar Trek
Bravo Three meanwhile, headed down to Kerala to check up on our trekkers:

Sal, Paul & Deepak's Travels

Sal and Deepak

On Tuesday, the Logistics Team ( Sally and Paul) and the Facilities Manager (Deepak) left Fieldbase at 6.30am and headed to the neighbouring state of Kerala. After 12 hours in the car, we arrived in Munnar, a small town high in the Western Ghat mountains, surrounded by tea plantations.

The next morning, after a breakfast of curry, we set off to meet the trekking group, Alpha 3, to replenish their food supplies, and to look out for the elephants that Deepak had promised us. We met them in a village called Surinelli and they looked hot, tanned, fit, tired, grubby, bedraggled and ever so slightly smelly. As the trek was only short that day we met them at the campsite at lunch time, and everyone was looking forward to the afternoon of relaxation.

The campsite was awesome; at the side of a lake, surrounded by thick forest and scrub, at the end of a virtually impassable (by vehicles) track. The site had been cleared especially for us, with platforms for the tents, a freshly dug toilet, and shower area. Mountains surrounded us, and all that could be heard was the sounds of the forest, birds singing, monkeys chattering, and Indian music drifting from the nearby tree house where the owner of the land lived. Everyone dropped their kit and jumped straight into the lake which was warm, clear and extremely inviting. Legs were shaved, hair and clothes were washed, mainly by jumping in wearing them all and thrashing about lots, as it was the first chance they had had for a wash in 5 days.

One daring Project Manager (Matt) even let Monnie cut his hair. She did a brilliant job, considering the tangle of curls she had to start with, and an audience of 20+, all of whom were shouting instructions and advice, mostly contradicting each other. We listened out for elephants all day, but saw nothing other than fresh dung and footprints. A number of locals came over to stare at us too, either in their fishing boats or on foot, with slightly bemused looks on their faces.

The day leader, Charlie, did a magnificent job of organizing the food into piles for everyone to carry for the next few days, and making plans for the next days’ activities. Everyone took advantage of the chance to chill out and spent most of the afternoon sunbathing, chatting, and comparing blisters. We shared the gossip from Feildbase, passed the messages on from the blog, and sold all of the stock of chocolate, crisps and pop from the shop within minutes. Dinner was cooked expertly for us, pasta and fresh vegetables from Surinelli, on an open fire, and tasted all the better for the charcoal and ash from the fire. Almost all had an early night, and we were woken at 5.30am with boiled eggs and fresh bread for breakfast (a present from the Logs Team) with jam.

We left the trekkers shortly after dawn, as we had to make our way to the next food drop in Vagamon, another beautiful site, with the camp halfway up a mountain and a fresh water stream running through it and views of the surrounding hills and valleys in every direction. We then had to make our way to the final camp of the trek, on the south west coast of India by the Arabian Sea. The beach was stunning, golden and black soft sand, waves crashing against it, a cooling fresh breeze and lots of coconut and palm trees. The locals were extremely friendly and inquisitive, especially when we got our jeep stuck in the sand, which they found highly amusing.

We then had the long drive back to Fieldbase, approximately 500km, all starting to look and smell like the trekkers had. We left at dawn, and only stopped for toilet and coffee breaks, finally arriving back ‘home’ at 5pm. Oh, and we finally saw some wild elephants, 70km from Mysore, 7 adult females and 2 babies, having a drink and bath in a lake just at the side of the road.

We all thoroughly enjoyed our trip, especially as it gave us the chance to get to know the trekking group better. They were so friendly, happy to share their food with us, so organized and all enjoying their journey. Alpha 3 rock!

Wednesday 20 February 2008

Road Trips to the Projects

Our first vehicle, Bravo One, left Fieldbase yesterday to take the food drop and extra supplies of chocolate, crisps and other goodies to our intrepid trekkers out and about in Kerala. Having made it to upper camp, Alpha Three's route will today take them downhill through privately-owned tea plantations to Lakeside Camp.

A full report will be updated here when Bravo One returns with our Fieldbase staff members Sally, Paul and Deepak on Sunday 24th.

Amanda (above) and Hayley (below) in the 'hub' - the Ops Room

Today Bravo Two will be heading out to project groups Alpha One and Two to spend a few days with each of them. Brian, Hayley, Gavin and myself will be taking their post, messages and goodies from the shop for them also. Check out the blog again on Sunday for all the latest news from their project sites.

Bye for now!

Tuesday 19 February 2008

Focus on...our Fieldbase Staff

Tim Berriman is not only our resident ‘cupid’ (see blog post from our Valentine’s party) but is also the Deputy Programme Manager here at Raleigh India. I managed to pin him down for 5 of his precious minutes to ask him a few questions:

Briefly describe your Raleigh role.

I am responsible for the staff and participant training programme and the day-to-day management of the expedition in the absence of Mark and Gavin. I plan the changeover activities when our venturers return to Fieldbase after each Phase and can generally sort out any technical problems with computers and our communications equipment.

What is the best part of your job?

The fact that it is so varied and I get to meet and spend time with everyone here on the expedition.

And the worst?

I don’t get to go out to the project sites very much as I am mostly based in Fieldbase.

Name your favourite Raleigh trekking food.

Sandwich spread

What should you never leave home without before a Raleigh expedition?

Lots of gaffa tape and some toilet roll.

Tell us what you’ve been up to so far today?

I’ve been in several meetings, including a discussion with Mark about the Adventure Challenge we are putting together for June this year. I’ve been trying to figure out all the wiring for our communication system and have eaten some very sugary Indian sweets.

Tell us something people don’t know about you.

I used to milk cows for a living.

Do you have any good India-related facts?

The height of an elephant to its shoulder is four times the circumference of its front foot.

What is your favourite expedition memory?

Dancing under the stars with forty participants in the Namib Desert (Namibia) around a very small ipod.

What is your Raleigh theme tune?

Into the Danger Zone from the Top Gun soundtrack.

Is there life after Raleigh?

Raleigh is life. (I haven’t thought that far ahead yet).

Monday 18 February 2008

Progress Updates

We have been hearing regularly from our three Alpha groups, who are settling in well to expedition life. Here is a brief update from each group so far:

Alpha One (Hosekerasunda Community Project) have set up their accommodation at the village school. On Sunday, the group walked to the nearest village where a similar project of building eco-sanitation units has already taken place. This gave the team a chance to see the finished product for themselves and learn more about how they are constructed. The materials have now been purchased and Alpha One will be starting work on their first toilet-build today! Their cooking efforts produced some lumpy custard with bananas yesterday, however, we have been told that the taste was “agreeable”.

Alpha Two (Nagarhole National Park Environmental Project) have moved into the ranger’s Inspection Bungalow, where they had their first elephant sighting near the camp on the day they arrived! On Sunday, the team got straight to work, completing their first elephant-proof trench. When we spoke to them they were very tired but pleased with themselves. They also wanted to report that they had cooked a lunch of chapatti with cucumber, carrots, beetroot and peanut butter – apparently quite a successful dish.

Alpha Three (Chattamunnar Trek) gave us the following report:

Alpha Three find themselves on the third day in Silent Valley after two days of arduous trekking. Blisters are rife but morale is high. Tomorrow we attempt to reach the summit of India’s second highest mountain outside the Himalayas. The highlight so far was following elephant tracks through the tea plantations and an unfortunate incident concerning leeches and Aaron’s upper thigh! Thankfully, the leeches are fine. The prospect of buying, killing and cooking a chicken has cheered him up.

From Alpha Three, sent 18/2/08 18.00

Additions to the Blog

You will now be able to enlarge new photographs posted on the blogsite, simply click on the photograph you would like to see in more detail. Also check out our link to Google Maps on the right-hand section of the blog; here you can type in the coordinates for where our venturers are currently located.

All your messages to our venturers will be passed on to them when our first teams go out to visit them this week at their various sites. Please note that all comments and messages posted on the blogsite are in the public domain, but a printed version is given to the venturer in person. We will update you with news from all three Alpha groups when the road trip groups return.

Friday 15 February 2008

Venturers Deploy

Raleigh International India 2008

रलिघ इंटरनेशनल इंडिया 2008

Their bags were packed (and unpacked and packed again in some cases), kit was checked and last-minute preparations were made. Then we had our group photo! The general feeling last night was one of excitement with a little bit of nervousness and anticipation as all our venturers and Project Managers got ready to deploy to their project sites for Phase One. For the next 19 days they will be based at either Nagerhole National Park, the village of Hosekerasunda or out on trek in Kerala, before heading back to Fieldbase on the 5th March.

Early this morning we all said our goodbyes as each Alpha group were loaded onto a bus to set off to their project sites. For our Trekking team, who were first to leave at 6:20 just as it was getting light, an eleven-hour journey lay ahead. Alpha One and Two were able to indulge in a more leisurely breakfast together, before heading out at 9am. It was a special morning for one of our venturers Venetia, who celebrated her 19th birthday today with chocolate cake and party hats!

All the groups set up communications with Fieldbase on arrival, letting us know that they've arrived safely and are busy setting up their camps, settling in to their sites and getting to know everyone in their group a bit better. They will all be communicating with us here at Fieldbase twice daily, so that we know everything is running smoothly and, for our trek team, so that we can keep up-to-date with their locations and progress at all times.

It's certainly much quieter around Fieldbase now and very strange after such a hectic and buzzing 5 days with our venturers. They've got a fantastic next few weeks ahead of them so keep reading the blog and posting your messages, as we'll be updating any information from the teams and their sites here first! We'll also be sending Fieldbase staff out to visit them in the next few days, taking with them food drops and supplies, the shop, any letters from home or messages from the blog, so I'm looking forward to giving you a full report from that as soon as possible.

A Word from our Host Country Venturers

Hi friends,
We are from Kerala and there are six of us here at Raleigh India: Arya, Abdul Kareem, Qathab, Sathyajith, Shiju and Srikanth. This is our first time here and we are very excited and pleased to be able to meet a group of Europeans. Their friendship, good nature and open minds have made us an active part of the group. This camp is helping us to develop our language skills and also to get an idea of their culture and life style. They are very good at sharing their thoughts and feelings with us. It is not a camp so much as a life full of adventure!

Party Time at Fieldbase

14th February
By Sarah Frodsham

Valentines evening began on a great note. In the girl’s dorm there was a wave of excitement circling as everyone began to convert their delightfully toxic smelling shiny bin bags into stylish evening wear, ready to dazzle in. After another dinner of curry, we all got changed into our outfits, including the boys, who were just as elegantly dressed!

Laura and Frit

The staff set up an episode of ‘Blind Date’, (a popular television programme in the UK) featuring three contestants and Cupid, who had to choose one of the contestants for an imaginary date. Cupid and the contestants were separated by a screen, so because he couldn’t see any of them, had to make a decision based on their answers to three specific questions, giving him a chance to learn a bit more about each contestant. There were a lot of laughs and finally, Cupid, who had the most wonderful toga, wings and halo, picked contestant number one.

The staff put on their own 'special' version of Blind Date

"Here is your host, Miss Cilla Black!"

The lovely Cilla meets the contestants

Deputy Programme Manager, Tim as the lovely Cupid

"Who's it going to be? The decision is yours..."

The evening moved on with some limbo and lots of dancing - Laurie did some rather impressive break dancing and Christina taught the group the moves to ‘footloose’, a rather funky dance which everyone eventually got to grips with after a few trips and falls – all adding to the humour.

A few games of Limbo

"How low can you go?"

The Catwalk - Raleigh's New Collection 2008

Paul and Frit

Aaron and Maud

Shiju, Abdul Kareem, Qathab, Sathyajithand Shrikanth

He's not always behind the camera (Our photographer, Brian with Miranda and Amanda)